Kane County will back portions of Rauner agenda, debate unions
At Gov. Bruce Rauner's behest, the Kane County Board will approve a resolution supporting at least some parts of Rauner's reform agenda. Deciding which parts may involve a discussion about the future ability of county employees to unionize.
Rauner met with county officials Tuesday to ask for the endorsement. County board Chairman Chris Lauzen said Rauner was explicit in saying the county should customize the endorsement to reflect only aspects where county officials agreed with the governor.
In a written statement, Lauzen indicated support of Rauner's views about public employee unions. That view involves passing legislation giving local governments, such as Kane County, the ability to exclude several topics from union negotiations, such as wage negotiations, use of paid work time to conduct union negotiations, and the use of third-party contractors.
"I personally don't consider public employee unions to be the same as trade and industrial unions," Lauzen wrote. "Where there is not a similar check-and-balance on government unions, trade/industrial unions have the constraint on 'overreaching' that jobs end up going to China, Central America, Southeast Asia, etc.
"Gov. Rauner's view on both unions is that decisions regarding the nature of union membership ought to be made locally," Lauzen continued. "There ought to be local control. He is saying that if Kane County wishes to continue its traditions and practices of organized labor, that's OK, but it ought to be up to you."
Pressed on Wednesday, Lauzen said he hopes his memo acts as a guide for what Kane County's resolution in support of the governor's agenda includes. But Lauzen wouldn't say if he would disband Kane County's unions if granted the authority.
"I'm agnostic," Lauzen said. "I follow the will of the board members. You tell me I'm required to work with anybody, and I'll do it."
Lauzen said he doesn't view Rauner's position as anti-union.
"It's just about local control and individual empowerment," Lauzen said. "That's a specific philosophy about decentralized, local control."
At the county board's Executive Committee, Lauzen instructed board members to craft a resolution that first includes no-brainer items about recognizing a crisis in state finances and the need to address unfunded pension liability. Second, he said, the resolution can probably include some language about emphasizing spending cuts before any new taxes or tax increases are considered. Last would be debate on more controversial issues, such as public unions.
"There are issues where you just ask the question; don't push," Lauzen said. "We are going to participate, but we are not the point of the spear. We are not going to do something that's going to hurt our board's cohesion."
The debate on what to include in the resolution will begin in the board's Legislative Committee, headed up by Aurora Democrat Brian Pollock. Pollock said the full board will debate the possible elements of the resolution and come to a consensus on what to say about unions.
"The chairman has said it's up to the board to set the policy," Pollock said. "And we're looking forward to that discussion."
Lauzen wants to send a resolution to Rauner in about 30 days.